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04 October 2006 @ 05:54 pm
Walking In My Shoes (26/?)  

Title: Walking In My Shoes (26/?)

Author: Kelly and Mike (collaborative writing team)

Posted: 10/4/06

Rating: Chapters range from PG to NC-17

Chapter: Chapter Twenty-Six rated PG-15

Email: jjsoapchat AT yahoo DOT com

Content: Angst, lots of Angst

Scenes include: Cordelia, Angel, Wes, Fred, Connor, Lillian, Gunn

Summary: Written for a challenge proposed on the Stranger Things message board. Challenge By rousedower. An AU/TT Challenge: Angel goes to another dimension, hence AU, somehow. And in this dimension he is married to Cordy and they have kids. But something happened to the other Angel (he's missing or dead), so there's mad tension and what not between this Angel and AU!Cordy. She knows he's not her Angel, but the kids (a boy and girl) are pretty young and think he's their father. I imagine a scene where their little daughter asks him to read her a bedtime story/tuck her in with Cordy trying to explain to her that he's not her father (really), and he does it.

Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.

Distribution:

Notes: Cast List: Kelly writes for Cordelia, Gunn, Lorne, Lillian, Kat, Ian, Illyria/Fred, Lilah, Eve, Faith, Gwen, Harmony, Vail, random shop owners/demons. Mike writes for Angel(us), Connor, Wes, random filler chars.

Feedback: Yes, please. Tell us how we are doing!

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Lillian watched silently as Wesley and Fred and then Angel and Cordelia had left from Connor's room and then the hospital. She hadn't been allowed in there while they were working their magics. Something she didn't understand but she accepted if it was going to help Connor. She watched from her uncomfortable plastic chair against the hall and the doctors and nurses worked to remove Connor from the machines, tubing, and restraints. When the room was finally free of family and professionals, she got up. She barely put her head inside to see him. She wasn't sure if he would be sleeping or awake. Even if he was awake, she wasn't sure he would be up to visitors. "Connor..." She said his name softly, trailing off.

Hearing her voice, Connor turned his head slowly to the door. He smiled at the sight of her. He felt like something that the dogs had drug up and the cats didn't want. He nodded and raised his arm just barely to her. His throat felt dry and sore from the ventilator tubing so he didn't speak.

She did give him just the smallest hint of a smile as she saw him smile. She moved to his bedside and took the hand of the arm he had raised. She reached over to touch his face. She didn't know what to say to him because there was so much she wanted to say.

"I'm ready to go home," he said to her, his voice just barely above a whisper. "I want to be home with you." His hand tightened on hers.

"You and I both know that is not a good idea. Just stay in the hospital overnight. How does that sound?" She was trying her best to compromise with him. When she heard how strained his voice was, she moved to pour him a glass of water, one handed. She didn't want to let go of his hand.

Taking the water from her, he sipped it. It felt good on his throat. "Since when do I do what is a good idea if I want?" That mischievous twinkle danced in his eyes.

"Will you please stay in the hospital overnight then...for me?" She was using her trump card here. She had to talk to him about what happened and what was going to happen. This way, at least he was captive. He could get up and go. He could leave but where could he go barefoot, rolling an IV alongside himself, and with his butt hanging out?

He let out a deep sigh and nodded. "Their food sucks you know," he said. "It’s like some hospital, nationwide rule or something." Connor looked down at her hand in his.

"I will call your parents and tell them to bring you back some enchiladas from Alberto's on their way back. They can sneak them in. If they can fit swords under their coats, they can fit a number seven with a Coke." She watched him as he looked down at her hand. She found her eyes going to it as well. She knew the mention of his parents, plural, was probably going to upset him.

"So, what's up," he asked. Connor knew her well enough that something was on her mind. "Might as well spill it, babe. Is the school burned down or something?"

Lillian shook her head. "No. The school is fine. The demon is gone and so are all the hive minions." She looked at him with a very deep-set frown. "You shouldn't have gone alone. Why did you do something that stupid?"

"I just thought I could get it before it got anymore of my girls," he said. "It was killing them and taking over their bodies. I couldn't handle one more being done that way."

"But you are part of a team, of a family. You can't go in, rushing off alone, to get yourself killed. Your parents got seriously hurt during the fight. And they both almost died trying to get the cure to save you." Again, she knew mentioning his parents was only going to rile Connor up but he had to know the truth. He had to know the consequences of his actions

"Parent," he said. "I only have one. My father is dead." He still wasn't quite accepting.

"Connor...Angel acted like more of a father than I have seen anyone else with a biological parent act. He risked his life twice for you. The demon almost killed him because it infected him. And his face is so badly burned because to save you, he had to go through pure sunlight to get the crystal to heal you. You know that biology doesn't make a parent. Cordelia is your mom but she didn't have you. She barely got to raise you as baby but she has always been there as a mother to you." And for as much as he wasn't accepting it, she was trying to make him accept it. He needed a father, now more than ever.

He looked at Lilly. "You mean you are ready to forgive him for trying to rape and kill you?"

"He didn't try to rape and kill me. Angelus did. And the only reason Angelus came out was because Angel wanted this life. It was better than his old one. I can understand that, wanting the perfect life. Don't you want that?" She was looking at him because she still wasn't sure she should tell him what was really going on. She wasn't sure he could handle it.

"Who wouldn't want that," he told her. "Normal life, normal family. It’s always been my dream, Lily. I used to watch families in the park and feel cheated that I never had that."

She was still holding his hand. She picked it and moved it to put it against her stomach. She didn't have to say a word. She knew if he concentrated, all those strange senses of his, he would be able to tell. Angel could tell right off the bat so it should only take Connor a few moments.

Connor laid there with his hand on her stomach. He frowned at first then his brow lightened and his blue eyes went from her face to her stomach then back to her eyes. His jaw slacked, speechless.

She just smiled at him for a moment. "I guess moving in together wasn't such a good idea. Once we stopped sneaking around, we got a little over enthusiastic. I kept putting off going to get the pill and well, guess now it’s too late."

"Baby," he stammered. "I'm going to be a dad?"

She knew he wasn't going to take this well. They were both so young. He just woke up from near death as well. "We...we don't have to keep it if you don't want to." She wanted to make sure that Connor had that out. She didn't want all that hate he carried inside, for his family and himself, to transfer onto an innocent baby.

"W-what do you mean," Connor said looking up at her. "This is...this is amazing. I'm gonna be a dad!"

She moved her hand away from his belly, putting it back on his chest. She pulled her hand away. "I don't want the hate. Or the stress. It’s stressful enough to be a Slayer and fighting evil. Connor...I know you can love and that is what I want for this baby. I want that love from you; not all that rage and hate you carry. If you don't think you can do that..." She trailed off, tears in her eyes. She knew deep down, that she needed to say these words to him.

Connor was quiet for several minutes. He had been raised by a man that was filled with hatred to a creature that had wronged him a couple centuries back. That creature had been Angelus, what Angel was without his soul. He had always had trouble separating Angelus from Angel. He finally looked back up at Lily and a tear was in the corner of his eye. "I need help, Lillian," he said and swallowed hard.

That tear in his eye moved her more than anything in the world could have. She reached over and wrapped her arms around him. Nothing she could have said in that moment would have made a difference. But the hug spoke volumes of what she was feeling. She would get him the help that he needed, even if it meant going to the ends of the Earth to do it.

 

Cordelia told Angel to park in the front of the hotel since they were just going to be leaving in a bit to see Connor. He wouldn't have to worry about the sun considering it was already evening. She walked through the front doors, heading upstairs straightaway so that she could check on the twins. She poked her head inside their room, only to find them asleep. She was a little thankful for that. While Angel made his way upstairs, she paid off the two girls from the Academy she had asked to watch the twins and showed them out. With all that done, after the day she had, she collapsed onto the couch with a sigh.

Angel entered the apartment floor after stopping down at the main kitchen and got a few things from the big freezer. He saw her collapsed on the couch and moved quietly to the kitchen. He pulled out a wok, oiled it, then put it on the stove to heat. He opened up the bag he had put the things in from the kitchen below.

Cordelia kicked her shoes off for the moment. She knew she was just going to have to put them on but a few hours with them off would be a godsend. She reached for the remote, turning the television on and over to E! She just assumed that Angel was heating himself up some blood since his face was still so badly scarred.

Soon, he came in carrying a tray with stir-fry on it and bed of rice. He sat it down on the coffee table. "Okay, you need to recharge," he said as he picked up the glass of iced tea to hand to her.

She paused as Angel came in with food and a drink for her. The second time in so many days that he had cooked something for her to eat. She took the glass from him. "What about you?" She wasn't going to eat alone. Years of being with him had pretty much made her indifferent to the blood drinking.

"It’s heating. I put it in a pan of water instead of nuking it. It'll be ready in a minute." he replied.

It did smell good and she wasn't going to wait on his blood if he wanted to pan heat it instead of in the microwave. She picked the fork up but groaned just slightly as she leaned forward. Her ribs were still hurting her from the tackle in the chamber.

Angel moved on back to the kitchen to check on his dinner. He was ready for a good shower and some rest also now that he knew Connor would be getting better and home probably in a few days. Getting his meal, he came back, put a folded towel down on the table and sat his mug on it. Reaching for a set of chopsticks, he sat down. "Just sit back," Angel said as he picked out a snow peapod and a piece of beef. He brought it around to her mouth.

She kept a hand against her side though she knew that it would do no good. She paused though as he held the food out for her. She was starving and in pain so why not? She sat back as he said and just moved her head forward to take the food. She closed her eyes because it was good, it was really good. It even beat the food from Lucky Dragon, and that was some feat.

"Is it okay," he asked as he got a second bite for her. He waited for her to let him know she was ready for the next bite.

She nodded her head as she opened her eyes. "Yeah, it’s really great. You made it just how I like it, a little spicy. I can't make it for the kids like that." Then again, she couldn't make it for the kids period. Her cooking was limited to dumping out ready meals into a pan.

Picking up the bowl, he moved to a more comfortable position to be able to feed her. "Well, you need it your way once in a while," he said as he brought up the next bite to her. "Especially after days like this."

"You can't really think about yourself when you have kids. I never would have thought about having kids back in Sunnydale. Trophy wife and award winning actress only." She leaned forward again to take the next bite. He was right, as much as she hated to admit it. It was nice to just come home and have good food. She just needed some wine to help relax, then it would be perfect.

Angel chuckled just a bit. "Who'd knew back in Sunnydale," he said reaching for her tea and handing it to her. "Though I really never figured out that Xander phase."

She took the tea from him, looking at it. "I do have a bottle of wine on the top of the fridge, you know? You didn't have to tea me." She did take a sip of it though. It hurt too much to lean forward to put it back so she kept it. She shrugged. "I like dorky guys, what can I say?" There was more to it than that but she didn't really want to discuss Xander tonight.

"I wasn't sure about the wine," he said to her. "You usually don't drink it unless the kids are staying with Gunn or Wes." He took the glass from her and set it down. He walked back to get that wine and a glass for her. He thought for a moment to get a second glass for himself.

"The twins are in bed. I don't think they are going to get up. Besides, I think I deserve it after the past two days. Not every day that you save a school of Slayers and your grown son, who should really only be starting kindergarten." She called back to him as he went to get the wine out of the kitchen. She knew he would hear her because of that super cool vampire hearing of his.

Angel came back, sat the glass down, and opened the wine. He poured it in the glass and swirled it a bit before handing it to her. "There," he said. "You do deserve it and more."

"Yeah, well learned a while ago that the job has to be its own reward." She took the glass from him. "No one rewards saving the world with new cars and designer dresses." She raised her glass, waiting for him to take up his mug of blood. "Here's to probably preventing yet another apocalypse."

Picking up the mug, he raised it to her. "And that Connor will be coming home soon where he belongs." He paused for a moment. "And no, it’s not rewarded in material ways. But, to know you did something that made a difference to millions, even if they don't know it..." He trailed off.

"It’s a pretty damn thankless job." She chuckled as she touched her glass to his mug gently. She brought her glass up to her lips to take a sip from it. One she got a sip, she brought the wineglass back down to rest on her knee.

"The life of Champions," he nodded and then took a drink. "Your hands, are they better? The crystal help?"

She looked down at her hands. She flexed her fingers before turning her hand over to look at her palm. "I think so." She looked up at him. His face was still so badly burned. She knew that had to be painful for him. "Do you want me to do a test run? See if I can fix your face?"

He didn't want her to try something if she wasn't ready or rested...Especially for him. "I don't want you to spend yourself anymore then you have," he said to her. It was still painful and very raw with the exposed nerves. This was one time he was glad he couldn't see his reflection.

She rolled her eyes at him. "Because I always offer to do things that I don't want to do or things I don't feel ready to do." Cordelia took another sip from her wine before giving it to him to set back on the table. "You have to come a little closer though."

Taking the glass, he put it down, then moved closer to her. She'd done this for him many times before and the process was faster on him then on humans thanks to his own healing enhanced by her powers.

"Must be pretty bad if my blood didn't clear it up. I am still not letting Fred do any experiments on me though. I know my blood, my demon powers, it’s all connected. I don't need her poking and prodding me for that." Cordelia brought her hands up. She very gently touched his face. She didn't want to hurt him, especially with how raw and angry those burns looked.

Angel winced just slightly at her touch. He didn't flinch away from her, though. Her touch after the initial contact felt good.

"Quit being a baby." She said to him when she saw him wince but she said it with a smile. She closed her eyes so that she could concentrate. It was going to take years for her to develop these powers, she knew that. For now, they didn't come naturally, she had to concentrate and will herself to do them. She tried to keep her touch light as her fingertips started to warm.

"I don't think a 250 plus year old vampire is a baby," he said with a quip of a smile. Her touch was warming now and the wounds tingling.

"You are a baby. You totally winced when I touched you. Be a man. Be all Grrr!" She laughed just a bit as she kept her eyes closed and her fingers working against his skin. This wasn't a typical gash that could be healed with just a few minutes. This was a huge burn and it was going to take longer. Rather than hold back and try to taper off the side effects of the healing, she just worked at full power.

Angel closed his eyes as he felt that warmth spread. It was a good warmth. He couldn't help it, he started humming Copacabana.

She had to try to keep herself from laughing when he did that. She snort-laughed and then she was full out snickering at him as she worked. She put her palm against the burn as she tried to suppress her snickers. "Okay, when Angel gets aroused, he sings Copa. Good to know." She was only assuming considering that any other time she tried to heal it had a tendency to get the healee worked up.

"I am stronger then that," he said. "I am Manpire!...Her name was Lola, she was a show girl with yellow feathers in her hair and a dress cut down to there..."

"I can't heal you if you keep making me laugh!" Cordelia tried to sound stern but there was something hilarious about a pale Irish vampire singing Barry Manilow. She pulled her hand away from his face to check the progress. She looked at him and the burn looked a lot better. It was now just pink skin, healing over.

When she pulled her hands away, he opened his eyes to look at her. "Well, how do I look," he asked giving the profile. "Did my holistic doctor do a good job?" He was going to have to head for the bathroom for some gentleman time because of this. But then just looking at Cordelia got him in the mood.

She just watched him as he turned his head to the side and then looked back to her. He was Angel. Maybe not her Angel exactly but he was. Whether it was the feeding her, or the wine, or the fact he was just acting like a dork, Cordelia couldn't place the reason for what she did next. She leaned to him and kissed him softly.

The kiss surprised him but he didn't pull back for a minute. He let himself enjoy the sensation of her lips against his for a little bit. They weren’t about to head into battle or keeping up appearances for the twins. They were alone. He finally did pull back but not far. He just looked into her eyes a moment then leaned back to her and kissed her, gently but with passion.

She almost worried when he pulled back the first time that he wasn't going to come back. It showed on her face when he looked into her eyes. The seconds between the first and second kiss seemed like an eternity to her. She let her hands rest on his arms as she kissed him back.

Again he broke that kiss, knowing she had the annoying habit of breathing. He swallowed hard. "If we keep going," he paused then swallowed again. "If we keep going I won't be able to stop."

She didn't seem to care. All she could think about was kissing him. He kissed the way her husband used to. This wasn't going to be an act of love or commitment. It was going to be an act of loneliness. She reached for him again, putting her hands on either side of his face. She kissed him again, not with love but just with an almost heartbreaking need.

Kissing her back, he just about wanted to cry. He stood, picking her up still kissing her. He started to carry her towards the bedroom. He wanted her so much he hurt.

She broke the kiss after he picked her up. She could see where he was going and that wasn't where she wanted, not for this. "Couch was fine. We can go back to the couch." It wasn't a request; it was one of those instances where she was telling him what to do.

He didn’t listen to her protests. Once they arrived in the bedroom, he set her on the bed. All kind of emotions were welling up in him and this was the hardest thing he had ever done. "No," he said shaking his head. "Cordelia, not like this." He reached for her face with a gentle hand. "I want you so badly it hurts me but not like this. I want you to want me the same way. The way it used to be. For love...Because we love each other."

Cordelia just gave him a look and pushed his hand off her face. "Are you completely insane? I am offering you guilt free, no strings attached sex. You can roll over and go to sleep, I don't care." She stood up from where he had put her on the bed. "I thought you would be jumping at this chance. Aren't all men into the one night stand, don't call in the morning kind of thing?"

Angel just stood there for a moment, looking at her. He shook his head and started to leave. He looked at her over his shoulder. "I want the strings. I'd have more guilt without them."

She could not believe that this was happening. Was he really turning down sex with her? She just shook her head. He had shocked her so much that she was pretty much speechless.

He turned back to face her now. "You couldn't do it either," he told her. "It seems good now but in the morning...I know Cordelia Chase and sex for just sex isn't what she's about."

"Maybe that is what I am about now. I lost my husband, almost lost my son, had to battle zombie versions of girls I helped to nurture and teach. Maybe it totally changed me into a sex machine. You don't know." She wasn't about to let him win this argument. He had turned down sex with her, for some pretty valid, if crazy reasons.

"Can you look dead on at me and say this is okay with you," he said. He knew she couldn't. "I love you Cordy and that is why I can't do this."

Her jaw tightened as she looked at him. He was challenging her and she knew it. Rather than tell him something that wasn't true, she just countered with an attack. "I don't love you. And maybe I never will. What are you going to do then? Just pine and brood over me when you can have me right now?"

"I'm going to go to my room and get a shower," he said not answering that one she tossed at him. "Then I'm going to see Connor." He started for the door.

"You don't have a room here. Two bedrooms, mine and the kids'." There was another challenge issued in her voice. She wanted to see what he was going to do when she pointed that fact out to him. Just because she let him sleep here once, she didn't want him to think he would be allowed to do it every night.

"I'm sure I can find a room, it’s a hotel after all," he said as he turned and stepped out.

Angel stood outside Connor’s room for a moment then he knocked lightly and looked in. Connor was awake but he still looked like hell. Angel knew his son would heal but it still hurt seeing him like this.

"Up for a visit," the vampire asked. "Even though it’s from me?"

Connor nodded his okay. There wasn’t an inch of him that didn’t hurt. "I guess I did something stupid," he said. "I wanted...I wanted to prove we didn’t need you."

Angel sat a bag on the table by the bed then he took the chair. He sat there in silence for a moment. He was looking to the foot of Connor’s bed absorbing what the young man had said while also letting Connor think about it all.

Finally, Angel spoke, "Connor, I’m totally agreeing with you what you did was stupid. Thing is, I would have done the same." He looked back to Connor’s face. "I would have done it to protect you. You are special, son, that’s why every crazy on the face of this planet and in countless dimensions want you. You are something that’s new, strong and we all know this. You’re also stubborn as the day is long and where you get that, well, has to be your mother."

Connor managed a weak chuckle at that. "I didn’t know her but I know my father. It’s just, its hard to accept that the man I knew as my father was dead and then you are here and not him but are," Connor tried explaining. "My father and I, we didn’t see eye to eye most the of the time. Actually I was the one that didn’t. He tried. He was always trying. It’s hard to reverse years of conditioning." Connor stopped then looked at Angel. "But I know who my father is. I know, Dad."

Angel sat their quiet for a moment letting Connor talk. This was important for his son, it was important for him as well. Connor needed to let things go or it would soon destroy him, as it almost had in this battle.

"Connor," he said finally, "I want you to know that I did my best to find you. I tried to follow after Holtz when he jumped through that portal but I was knocked back by something. I made everyone’s life hell trying to find a way to you." Angel paused a moment. "In this dimension and the other."

Connor looked up at Angel. The expression on his face was one Angel had never seen. It wasn’t harsh or hard. It wasn’t the tough kid. "I’m beginning to realize it," he told the vampire. "I’m not making any promises and, well, things can’t totally change over night…But I’m willing to give it a shot."

Angel smiled at his son. "That’s all I can ask, Connor," he replied. Then he looked to the sack with the comics and graphic novels. "I got what I thought you’d like. Most of them just hit the stands. X-Men, Spawn…Some I’m not really sure of but they look bloody."

Connor managed a laugh. "Now I see why Mom calls you a Dork."

"I wouldn’t laugh too much," Angel said, "she calls you one too." The vampire smiled, hearing his son laugh. He reached into the bag to pull out one of the comics. He tossed it to Connor while getting one of his own to read. After the fight with Cordelia, this is exactly how he needed to end his night, just spending time with his son.

 

It had been a week since Connor had been discharged from the hospital and things around the hotel were starting to settle into a pattern. Cordelia had a vision, the team was called, and things had to be done. Cordelia had already set up the front lobby for the impending arrival of the team. She wondered sometime if they shouldn't have just converted the ballroom into some kind of command central. But it would probably look empty and uninviting with just a fold out table and a whiteboard. The last thing they needed is for people to feel uncomfortable when they should be brainstorming. She stood in front of the whiteboard, marker in hand, writing down every little last detail about the vision she just had. Phone calls were already made, people were on their way. She usually just told Angel and he dealt with the flow of information down but she was basically in charge now.

Wesley and Fred entered. The bubbly brunette waved and headed for the kitchen to get the coffee ready. Wes moved to the table and sat his books down. He watched Cordelia a moment. "So, have things settled down around here?"

"What do you mean by settle down?" She wasn't looking over at Wes right now. She was busy writing something on the whiteboard. It wasn't really a word so much as it was the sound she heard the demon make.

"You have Connor home. Angel is living here now," he said as he walked around the table to the board. "Glurbelfratzik Gloop?" He looks at the board and cocks his head from side to side.

"Noise it made." She tapped the end of the marker against the whiteboard.

"Its nice to have Connor home and safe." She purposely didn't mention Angel in that snippet. Angel was not a topic she wanted to discuss.

"Cordelia," he said, " he is the 190lb gorilla you are going to have to come to grips with."

"I don't have to come to grips with anything, Wes. I played nice with him when we had serious danger with the group attacking the school. I don't need to play nice anymore. We ran this place without him before and we ran it better than he did." She put the marker back in the holder before moving over to the table to see what books Wes had bought.

"And you really believe what you're saying," Wesley asked. "You think we're better off without him then with? That you're better off?" His voice is low and soft. "Cordy, I was wrong when I had said he wouldn't be Angel. He is and more. He knows what it is to loose everything he cares about and now he treasures it even more."

"Its nice to have him around for the twins. There, I admitted something." She moved away from Wes so that she could get a few more of the research books. She checked the titles.

"What about for you," he said. "What about what you need? Connor has accepted him." he sighed as he watched her. "Cordelia, I've seen you watch him when you thought he was busy and none of us paying attention. When he's cleaning weapons or doing Tai Chi."

"I am keeping an eye on him because at any moment, he could sell us all out to Wolfram and Hart. I am glad Connor accepted him and has calmed down. I don't know why everyone is insisting that I should just accept him and invite him back into my life. In case everyone around here as forgotten, the Angel we knew is dead. He died alone. No one seems to care because you all are too busy fawning over the inferior replacement." Cordelia grabbed a stack of books and dropped them down on the table.

"Is he," Wesley said with a raised brow. He moved to Cordy and took her hand and led her out to the garden. "I have a hunch." He paused outside. He looked to the urn that sat in a corner of the garden, surrounded by roses and where the sun hit most the day. "I placed the enchantment on the urn so that his ashes couldn't be stolen. There is only one person that can open it." He looked back to her.

"Are you going to tell me what this hunch is or are you going to make me disturb my dead husband's ashes?" Cordelia just looked over at Wes as he led her out to the garden and then that spot where she, herself, had put the urn.

"Open it," he said and nodded to the urn.

Cordelia sighed and reached over. She opened the urn. She looked inside but was stunned to find it empty. That surprise only lasted a moment before it went to anger. "Where are they, Wes?" She picked the urn up and pushed it towards him. "Where is he?!"

Wesley remained ever the calm one. "Where do you think," he replied. "Only you could open that urn or move it for that matter. We placed that spell on it for fear of those out there that would try and steal his ashes for some nefarious scheme. If nobody but you could touch them, then what do you think did happen?"

Cordelia hated these kinds of riddles. It was worst than the SAT questions where you had the two trains, traveling for different cities at different speeds, where would they meet questions. It was bound to give the smartest person a headache. Aside from that, she was visibly upset because Angel's ashes were gone. She wasn't in the mood to play word games. "I don't know, Wes! That is why I am asking you."

"He's in that hotel, Cordelia," Wesley told her taking the urn now the spell broken once she opened it and picked it up. He sat it down. "He is back. He can't exist in the same place twice and even though there were ashes in here they still held his molecular composition. I don't know when this happened. If it did when his soul was secured or received the complete memories...But as we know, nature and The Powers abhor a vacuum."

"The Powers can kiss my ass. They have been jerking all of us around for years now. I am beginning to wonder why we even work for them." Cordelia turned to head back into the lobby. They had work to do, even if she was cursing The Powers. She didn't want innocent people to die because her life was turning out to be more and more like a daytime soap.

He stood there a moment after she left. He watched her then looked back to the urn. He only wished that this might start to sink in to Cordelia and that she could stop denying what he and everyone else seemed to know, especially centering on her and the feelings she kept denying.

Wes then headed on into the hotel. He watched Cordelia a moment. "I want...I need you to give him a chance, Cordy," he said. The pleading in his eyes held more emotion then his features.

She looked up from where she was putting legal pads down in front of the various chairs. She snorted at Wes and went back to her task. "That isn't going to happen. I am not some sex robot that you can program to get it on with anyone here."

"Cordelia, you are one of the most honest people I know," he said stepping towards her. "You've always been honest with me, often brutally. Now I need the same from you."

She just looked at Wes when he came closer to her. She frowned deeply. "You want honesty? Fine. I will be honest about how I feel about Angel when you are honest. You finally own up to everyone the secret you have been carrying for years, then I will give the Angel a chance." Cordelia was fairly sure that Wes would never do that. He kept things to himself before and had kept this a secret for quite some time.

He didn't answer her. He looked down at the marble tile. Then he turned and went to his seat as he heard Fred coming from the kitchen. This was something he didn't want to tell, he didn't want Fred to know. He didn't want Angel to know what he had done even though the vampire had saved him and the others time and time again, even giving up his chance for humanity once.

Cordelia was satisfied that she wouldn't have to give Angel a chance. Just by Wes' reaction, she knew that he wasn't going to tell. She sat down at her usual seat. All she could think about though were those missing ashes.

Fred came out of the kitchen carrying a coffeepot and a hot mitt to set it down on. She gave them both a smile, oblivious to the tension. "Everybody else running late? Guess we were just excited to get over here. Been quiet the past couple of days if you don't count Connor and Angel going out on solo missions and stuff. It’s a good thing they are getting along." Fred reached to pour Wes a cup of coffee.

Taking the cup, he smiled weakly at Fred. "Thank you," he said, not taking a drink. He looked back at the cup holding the dark, steaming liquid.

Fred went to ask Wes what was wrong but Gunn coming through the door interrupted her. He jerked a thumb back towards the door as he spoke and headed inside. "Faith took the girls up to Oxnard for a few days. Got that vampire religious cult up there." Gunn pulled a chair out and dropped himself down into it.

"Yes," Wes nodded. "Isn't that the same group that came for Darla while still pregnant with Connor?" He looked to Gunn.

"Different cult group. That group, Connor and Angel took care of them couple of days ago. They were holed up in West Hollywood." He took the coffeepot from Fred to pour himself a cup of coffee. "Speaking of Dweedle Dee and Dweddle Dum...where they at?"

"Listening to what other dumbass thing you're going to say or call us," Connor said from the landing above the lobby, looking down on them.

Gunn looked up, grinning at the kid. He raised his mug of coffee towards him. "Nice to see you could tear yourself away from your new video game to come do some work." Gunn chuckled. He and Faith had already beaten the game but it had been a slow week with the Wonder Twins taking all the cases.

"Yeah, I already topped your score in it," he said coming down the stairs. "Amateur."

"Keep wishing, kid. Where's the old man?" Gunn took a quick glance at the board but then he saw Wes looking weak and into his coffee. "You okay, English?"

Fred reached down and rubbed Wes' back when Gunn asked the question. "Think he is just coming down with something. Can fight all the evil in the world but its really hard to fight the common cold. Remember last year when the girls got mono, thought we were never going to get them all recovered. Good thing none of the demon world picked up on that!"

"He was still fixing his hair," Connor said as he took a seat. "Never could figure out how not being able to see his reflection he can be so damn picky about his hair." He glanced over at Wes when Fred spoke. "You do look a bit green there, Wes."

Wes straightened in his seat. "I'm fine," he told them. "I just haven't rested well lately."

Cordelia knew that Wes was never going to tell now. Almost everyone was here and how could he face them after it, especially Fred. "Wes, you can go home if you want. It’s just research. And we have a few hours before it strikes."

"No," the ex-watcher said. "I'll be fine. In fact I think concentrating on what is ahead will be just what I need."

Cordelia wasn't going to wait for Angel to fix his hair. She wasn't going to wait for Angel period. Wes wasn't fessing up; she didn't have to be nice. "Had the vision about...An hour ago. I wrote down everything like usual. I think it might be down by the rail yards but I am not sure."

"Grox Lar Beast," Angel said as he made his way down the stairs. "Big, ugly. Goes 'GLOOP' every other word."

Cordelia frowned and pushed her book away from her. She didn't look up at Angel as he came down the stairs. "Well, looks like Angel solved the big vision mystery. Sorry everyone had to drive over here to work as a team and waste all that gas."

"Hey, I just put a name to it," the vampire said. "I haven’t solved the how or why it’s in our territory. But they are baby eaters."

"They are ALWAYS baby eaters." Cordelia mumbled to herself. She reached for her pad of paper and a pen. The annoyance was radiating off her. She had near killed men with her looks and the glare she was shooting Angel could have killed a human man.

Gunn cleared his throat, looking to Wes. He gave the other man a look. If they didn't try to contain Barbie, they were going to have to put her to the street, vision girl or not. Gunn reached for a book. "Okay, got the name, got its down by the rail yard, got a few hours. Any ideas on how to kill it?" Gunn looked to Fred and Wes, waiting for suggestions.

Fred took a seat next to Wes, looking nervous due to the tension that was mounting in the room. She reached for Miller's Demon Companion and turned to the Gs, trying to find it. She had instantly quieted, which was never a good sign with Fred.

Angel gaze locked on Cordy. "I guess I need to keep quiet on how in the other dimension I killed one," he said as he moved to the front desk and just leaned on it.

"Well, you've just killed everything in every dimension, haven't you?" Cordelia stood up. She had never been afraid of Angel or of anything really. It just wasn't in her nature to be a shrinking violet. But it was about to come to blows, that much clear in her eyes.

Wes stood up and hit the table with his fist. "Now stop it, both of you," he said raising his voice. "This is about all we are going to stand for!"

Connor raised a brow. He'd never heard Wes talk like this. It was almost scary.

Gunn watched Wes stand up and slam his fist on the table. It was about time someone did it. He was getting pretty fed up with these playground antics. Angel pulled Cordy's hair; she kicked sand in his face. The gang didn't have time or energy for this bullshit.

Fred reached up. She touched Wesley's arm softly. She had never seen him this angry before. There was something bothering him, more than just the now usual acidic banter between Angel and Cordelia.

Cordelia looked across the table at Wes. She felt like she was being ganged up on. She couldn't understand why everyone was so quick just to accept this guy. When she thought they were all going to die, that was one thing. This was different. "Well, I can tell when I am not wanted."

Wes glared at first Angel then Cordelia. "Sit! Now, both of you," he said. "You are going to act like school children, you'll be treated as such." Again, he gave them both that look that said they better not argue.

Cordelia kept her eyes on Angel. She wasn't going to sit down until he sat down. She didn't care if she could feel Wes boring little holes into her.

Angel moved to the table and took a seat. He glanced around at each of them.

After Angel was seated, only then did Cordelia sit. She didn't look at anyone. She wasn't ashamed but she kept her eyes on the whiteboard, with her arms crossed over her chest.

Fred reached once more for Wes to pull him down so that he could sit back down next to her. She wasn't sure what had gotten into him. Moments ago, he looked as if he had the flu and now, now he was yelling.

"I think I have a way to settle this," Wesley said as he composed himself. He looked down at Fred and gave her a bit of a smile. "I've been keeping something to myself because, well, it was my business and I felt it didn't need to be aired."

Cordelia's head snapped back to look at Wes. He wasn't going to...Was he? There was no way that he was going to spill this after all these years just to get her and Angel back together. She shook her head as she looked at him.

Fred just continued to look at Wes but that smile she was holding for him started to waver at the corners of her mouth. What could Wes be keeping to himself? She thought they told each other most everything. He didn't need to know about her bad childhood habits but everything else was fair game.

"The demon wizard that anchored Angel's soul was...Is a friend of mine," he began. "Friend or not, he needed a payment for his service. A payment that...I felt was worth what he asked to save Angel and be rid of the threat of Angelus."

Angel frowned at this. He didn’t like how this was starting.

Cordelia swallowed hard and she looked at Wes. "Wes, don't. Its fine." She didn't want to see him put himself through this. She had only said it because she thought he never would. Now she was concerned for how uncomfortable he looked.

"Cordelia, I think it is time it was out in the open," he said. He let out a sigh. "Bernie is ancient, but he's not immortal. When it is close to his time, he will need a replacement or all chaos will be let loose. I shall be his replacement."

Cordelia sighed when Wes finally said it. She didn't want him to do it. It was going to crush Fred. She brought a hand up to her forehead. If he just would have paused, taken a breath, she could have asked Angel to take her out on Saturday. That would have stopped all of it.

Angel frowned at this. "Wes, Bernie is...He's incorporeal." Already the vampire's mind was on a track that he didn’t like.

Fred pulled her hand slowly from Wes. She knew what it meant and she tried to blink back the tears. "But...Bernie...He isn't corporeal here. And he...He works for Wolfram and Hart sometimes." Angel had said it first but her attention was on Wes.

Gunn wasn't happy with this either and he wasn't happy with the fact that Cordelia seemed to know and didn't tell them. He frowned deeply. He needed to go kill something. He looked over at Connor and then Angel. "How do you kill this thing from Cordy's vision?" None of them were going to be any good to take care of this outside of him and Connor. Gunn was already up, going to the weapons cabinet.

Angel's eyes were still on Wes. He couldn't believe that he had done this for him. "Standard whacking," Angel said in an offhand tone.

Gunn looked over to Connor. "Kid, you want to go kill stuff with me?" He already knew what the answer was. Gunn grabbed out an axe from the weapons cabinet. He looked over at Wes. All he did was give a nod of his head. He probably would have done the same thing if he were in Wes' shoes to get rid of Angelus. Hell, it made Angel a better fighter and a lot easier to deal with. He had the confidence of the demon tempered with the restraint of the soul.

Connor looked at Angel, Cordy, then Wes. He swallowed hard then stood. "Yeah," he said. "Work off some of this tension."

This wasn't the place for either he or Connor right now so Gunn headed out to get this thing. There weren’t many rail yards it could be at. In addition, there were always vampires there that needed to be cleared out. He headed out, Connor right on his heels.

Fred was still waiting, waiting for Wes to speak after Gunn and Connor had said what they needed to say. She couldn't tear her eyes from him, big brown eyes brimming with tears.

Wes looked to Fred. "Bernie only does what he wants for Wolfram & Hart," he gave her a soft smile. "Sometimes what they ask for doesn't always work well for them. Bernie has the advantage of telling what will and won't."

"Wesley..." There was a desperate plea to her voice. The working for Wolfram and Hart was really secondary to the fact that he was not going to be corporeal. After years spent together, in each other’s arms, she had to face a cold reality that she wouldn’t have that anymore.

Cordelia looked at Angel. She knew that Wes and Fred needed some time alone. She got up and moved around to his side of the table. She lowered her voice for only him to hear. "Take me for a drive. Now."

It took a moment for Angel to realize that she was talking to him then he blinked. "Yeah, okay," he said standing.

Cordelia took his arm and dragged him bodily to the access door leading to the garage. She pulled him down the stairs so that Fred and Wes could talk. She never could just leave well enough alone but Fred needed to find out sometime.

Wesley turned to Fred. He didn't say anything he just waited for her to speak. But he looked into her eyes and his heart was pounding so hard he thought it would bust from his chest.

"Why...Why didn't you tell me sooner?" Fred's mind was reeling. She had to fix this. Who knew when Bernie was going to kick the bucket. It could be fifty years; it could be fifty minutes. She had no way of knowing.

"I did this...When I thought you and Gunn," he said trying hard here. "And after, I didn't want you scared or worried."

Fred just shook her head. She grabbed the legal pad from in front of her and started to scribble on it. "It will be easy. We can just build an energy stabilization unit and capture your being and then convert the mystical energies into more solid physical ones." Fred tried to laugh but it sounded forced and so nervous. "Its just a little quantum mechanics and chaos theory. Simple really...Simple." Her hand was shaking so hard now. She was about to lose it.

He took the pen and paper from her hands then pulled her up to him. "I wish it were that simple. But we can't worry now. What we can do is enjoy every moment we have." Pulling her closer so he could hold her, he kissed the top of her head.

Fred pressed herself against him. In his arms, she felt safe. It was a feeling that for five years of her life, she didn't have. She started to cry in his arms, her whole body shaking with the sobs. She didn't want to lose him. "We haven't had enough time...Not enough time at all."

"We've got now," he told her. "We've go now and we'll always have each other."

-TBC-